She Killed in Ecstasy (Jess Franco / West Germany-Spain, 1971):
(Sie Tötete in Ekstase)

Jess Franco's camera doesn't need much to feed on, a single image will do: Soledad Miranda in a violet cape running down the steps of a Mediterranean village out of a Losey dream gives him more than enough to work with, the rest flows naturally, and in Spanish dubbed into German to boot. Miranda is married to medical researcher Fred Williams, the two make out in a lab full of embryos in jars; the work is deemed blasphemous by a tight-assed cabal, so Williams' findings are destroyed and his sanity dissolves. "The dreamers are to be stopped," proclaims council member Howard Vernon, who spouts on youthful revolt against social order until with the corner of his eye he spots Miranda, now a vengeful black widow, unfolding her legs by the bar -- they go to a motel, he needs degradation in order to be aroused so she provides it, along with the dagger sheathed in her garter belt. Ewa Strömberg, number two in the revenge list, finds the heroine decked as a tourist, "delicate like porcelain, lively like a waltz"; Miranda sprawls on her back to compare herself to a painting, Strömberg begins fondling her, and, in one of the countless effects Franco achieves with the most transparent of means, a glass of sherry is placed in front of the lens. The filmmaker steadies his camera long enough for the women undressing each other in semi-silhouetted long-shot to meld with the décor of an authentic 1970 groove pad, though Franco denies himself polish with the rigor of a monk -- a zoom back sets the composition, a zoom forward defaces it (i.e. the rows of burning candles in the church with Paul Muller). "You will have to suffer," the avenger informs her final victim, with the iridescent cult siren providing one last mating of sex and death before her own untimely demise. And Franco? He filmed it in ecstasy. With Horst Tappert.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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